I am avoiding going to the store for school lunch fixin's. I am most decidedly dragging my feet on this, the day before the day before Sophie starts Kindergarten. I had no idea I would feel so much anxiety, such nostalgia, such terror. I've spent the better part of today feeling fragile and weepy, probably because it seems impossible that I'm going to commit my little girl to a big brick building with a flagpole outside, where she will stay all day with people she doesn't already know, and then come out, hopefully holding the same lunch bag she went in with. I know I will obsess over whether it's empty at the end of the day, or still packed with 2/3 of the food I sent with her. And so I will drag my feet through the grocery store, choosing the things that will become Sophie's first school lunches with the care that Indiana Jones chose the grail. Will I choose wisely?
I took Sophie to her last day of preschool this morning. She's been going there since the age of 20 months, with a brief hiatus while we served a winter-long sentence in Vail. On her first day there, she sat down for circle time and requested the song "Pistol Packin' Mama." When her teacher said she didn't know it, Sophie reminded her that it started with the lyrics, "Drinkin' beer in a cabaret..."
Our preschool was a small school where everyone knew each other, and where I felt super comfortable. I considered it an extension of our own home environment: A place where I wasn't afraid to be myself. I wrote the class newsletter (sometimes), and helped organize events. I went along on field trips, and made phone calls urging parents to attend the next meeting. Sometimes. I joined a school-sponsored exercise group and carped about Alex's carping about tuition. Lunches and snacks were provided; I never packed one meal. Now that all that's over, I don't know what I'm doing. How exciting.
And I don't know that her new school will know what it's doing, either. How will Sophie's teacher know that such subtle cues as wanting to sit down and rest mean that a trip to the school nurse--and then probably home--is in order? How will she know that the statement, "I have a forehead," means that she's feverish and headache-y? How will she know that Sophie spends as much time falling down as she does standing up? Who will be there to apply the bandage, and will it have princesses on it? I am tempted to write a how-to manual, staple it to Sophie's shirt, and then show up at school to read it aloud. I am tempted to tattoo her address and phone number to her belly, upside down, so that if she blanks, she can look down her shirt and read it to whomever needs to call me--stat.
Thankfully, Sophie is unable to come along for my midlife crisis-like hayride. Her excitement is palpable; she couldn't be happier about this next adventure in big-girl beginnings, which is why my behavior must baffle her right out of the pink Chuck Taylor's she's about to outgrow. While I was rooting around the fridge for the makings of yesterday's one-food-group dinner that we ate standing at the island in the kitchen instead of the table, Sophie mentioned her friend, Grace. "Mom, can you believe two of Gracie's teeth are loose?" I spun around, pointed my finger at her and said, "Don't even think about starting to lose your teeth yet!"
But I have hope that by the time the leaves fall and it's dark enough in the mornings that an alarm is necessary to wake up on time, I'll have it together. I imagine we'll get busy making bake sale cookies and memorizing school plays. And it'll be like I'm getting to go to school all over again, only with wine and chocolate at the end of the day instead of milk and carrot sticks. I'll learn all over again what kind of mother I am, and what kind I'll become. And if I get stuck, I can always ask Sophie for help. She seems to have everything under control.